Upon entering a thrift store, the first thing you notice is that there is a lot of stuff in there. Like, racks upon racks of it. Some of it’s cool, some of it’s strange, and some of it toes the line between the two. The mission is to see what side each item falls on.

Realistically, there will be times when nothing will be worth even the tiny price tag it has. But when magic strikes, the reward of finding something unique and entirely imbued with history that costs next to nothing makes all the effort totally worth it.

It takes a good eye, but more importantly it takes patience – lots and lots of patience.
Here are some tips to make the process a bit more manageable:

Check Out the Men’s Section
Maybe this is just me, but I have a definite propensity for oversized men’s shirts. There’s just something about flannel that makes an incredibly comforting sweater alternative. It has an I-woke-up-like-this kind vibe that can only be achieved with a something that was actually cut for a man. I also tend to go for some of the men’s dress shirts. I’ve gotten some that are long enough to be worn with belts and leggings, and it technically qualifies as a shirtdress. Or at least in my book.

Visit the Little Boy’s Section
Another place you may not otherwise look is the little boy’s section. Check out the size XL blazers if you’re a petite lady looking for a new, basic blazer. I bought one that fits in the torso, but obviously my arms are longer than those of a 12-year-old boy’s. Once I rolled them up, however, I had an adorable makeshift quarter-length sleeve jacket for a few bucks.

Browse the Bag Selection
And when I say, “browse,” I mean comb through. I have (occasionally) found designer bags nestled amongst the random selection, such as Valentinos strung up against the wall with the awkward plastic backpacks. It takes an eye to tell what is real and what isn’t. Genuine leather is often easy enough to distinguish, and finding a leather bag for $10 is totally worth it. For those of us with qualms about purchasing leather goods new, getting them secondhand can alleviate many of these issues, while still rewarding you with a durable item.

Weed Through the Belts
Belts tend to be a hole in my wardrobe, one that is difficult to fill. You need some good, staple leather ones, but purchasing them is a bit tiresome. Throwing a belt around it is one of my go-to ways of mixing up old, tired clothes. Every belt’s different thickness and color changes the effect it has on your ensemble, so having a good variety is key. Acquiring a bunch at a thrift store is a manageable way to spice up your wardrobe and add some needed variety.

Dress in Proper Attire
I am a firm believer in the idea that one needs to try on clothes before you purchase them, even at a thrift store. If all you have to go off of is the numbered size, you have no way of knowing if it will actually fit. Even things that aren’t supposed to fit perfectly, you have to determine if the garment is going to have a cool, slouchy vibe or swallow you whole. Again, the line is fine, and trying something is the only way of knowing.
Most thrift stores don’t have fitting rooms, so in order to try things on, you have to be a little more inventive.

I like to wear leggings and a tank top so I can slip everything on over them and have an idea of how they would actually fall. Yeah, it’s a bit grimy, but this is the stage where you really get to weed through things and see what you are actually working with when you get there. My friends and I tend to fill up our carts and then try everything on in the end, hanging up our yes and no piles. This gives you the ability to pick up everything you find remotely interesting or intriguing and see what works and what doesn’t.

It’s surprising what you will find at a thrift store. Try on a few things, and step out of your comfort zone a bit. It’s not the same as shopping at a department store, but looking through the remnants of other people’s lives and seeing what you can find to fit into yours has its own unique rewards.